The new Office Online site, launched Monday, is tied to the release next month of Office System, a wide-ranging revamp of the company's productivity software.
Many of the changes in the new Office focus on using Extensible Markup Language (XML) to integrate Office with corporate databases and Web services. The Office Online site reflects the Web services push by offering help resources that can be viewed directly within Office 2003 applications, meaning that people don't have to launch a Web browser to see them.
"A new benefit is the ability to access the most up-to-date content directly through task panes in the Office system programs, so they won't have to leave the document, spreadsheet or PowerPoint deck they are working in to get the information they need," Chris Linnett, group manager for Office Online, said in a statement.
The Office Online site offers downloadable templates and clip art for Office documents, program updates and multimedia training programs. It also features the Office Marketplace, a collection of links to third-party sellers of Office-related software and services. (XML-based functionality in Office System applications has been a springboard for Microsoft to forge new relations with partners, especially Web services specialists.)
Office 2003 is set to go on sale at retail outlets on Oct. 21, but PC makers should begin offering models with the software preinstalled by late this month. Microsoft is focusing on enterprise-related additions, such as XML tools and new digital rights management capabilities, to woo businesses that passed on the last few rounds of Office upgrades.
Microsoft's Knowledge Worker business unit, which produces Office, is among the company's most profitable divisions. The unit will generate roughly a third of Microsoft's product revenue in fiscal year 2004, according to analyst estimates.
One of the best features of the new Microsoft® Office System doesn't come in the box. It’s on the Web. Microsoft Office Online is the Web resource for tools and assistance for Office 2003. In this preview demonstration brought to you by Microsoft Insider, we'll show you how you can use Office Online for assistance, step-by-step training, great time-saving templates, clip art, product updates, and more. Download: Office Online Preview Demo